Reflections: Autistic Burnout & Free Time

Over the years, I have been reading more about Autistic Burnout and exactly what it is. I think that I have always experienced it, but never understood it, nor have I accepted the fact that it is OK to not be constantly engaged in something, whether it be a special interest or something that I like to do that isn’t an interest. I am starting to learn finally that autisicic burnout is something that comes with the autism diagnosis and that accepting it will put my mind more at ease and I will be able to function better in life.

Many times, I would say that I was tired, but I wouldn’t want to admit that autistic burnout was exactly the reason for it contributing to the reason for it happening continually. To clarify for anyone that is unfamiliar, autistic burnout is when you are exhausted from having to mask or manage yourself to the best of your ability under the circumstances of the public eye where we as autistics may not be able to function as we want to. This is done by “holding in” our ability to regulate as we need to until we arrive in our safe space. Regardless of where someone is on the spectrum, I have read about this being played out in whatever they need to when experiencing challenges in the outside world.

For me, I had to more or so come to terms with the understanding that when necessary, I must rest and be satisfied with doing so. For a many of times, I want to be hyper critical about taking time for myself, actual time where I am not actually putting my brain to work because recharging is just that, having the ability to rest the brain from all the hard work it is doing and the nonstop thoughts it is processing to you and rest and relax. 

To those that support autisitc individuals of all ages, it is important to understand this principle of understanding of the need for one to recharge their thoughts, particularly after a day in a  school, day program, or work-like setting. Many times, as I did for many years, I scheduled my appointments on the same day as these functions, and as a result I was completely burnt out because appointments such as therapies, medical or mental health appointments are not only extending the day but contributing more to the load of autistic burnout, not to mention if there are significant gaps between meal, nourishment,and/or hydration intervals during the day, which can further compromise the stability in an autistic person.

Therefore, years ago, when becoming independent, I had a designated day of the week where I had to schedule all appointments that present additional overload and require additional time that prevents me from relaxing when already experiencing a standard day as it is. Lately, I have to the best of my ability to schedule all appointments within one day, although there can be some stipulations due to policies of insurers, etc. and this can present additional challenges where additional days may need to be taken in order to accommodate your needs. As many autistics experience challenges in their lives, there must be understanding in accepting and accommodating our needs, that is what the disability provisions are for. Ask for them, and use them to the best of your ability.

It is imperative to do what is necessary in order to relax and recharge for an autistic person in a world that is quite challenging and is seen very differently than that of our neurotypical peers. Part of accepting Autism for what it is means accepting the issues that come with it and the comorbidities that make life challenging and finding ways to resolve issues to make them more manageable for daily living. Autistic burnout is one of those things that just come with the diagnosis. It doesn’t disappear or go away, but when managed properly and cared for, it makes life better.

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